Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Test everything, hold fast to what is good.

From today's reading:  Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise the words of prophets. but test everything; hold fast to what is good; abstain from every form of evil.  1 Thessalonians 5:19-22

Test everything, hold fast to what is good; abstain from every form of evil.  Great advice - sometimes harder in the execution.  You would think that all forms of evil should be outlandishly and outrageously obvious.  But that is not always the case.  Often times, the things that seem most attractive, and even innocent, can eventually lead to various forms of evil.  When we get too far into entitlement mode (you know, when you think, "why not me?") that is when we risk Satan's invitation.  That is when we need to remember to test everything, to hold fast to that which is good, and cast away that which is risky.  And trust the Spirit to guide you at all time.  He who is faithful will never let you down.

Lord, when temptations come, help me to recognize them and to walk away from their attractiveness and not to fall into their trap.  Guide me by your word and your Spirit, that I may make right choices and walk in your ways.  Amen. 

Monday, December 10, 2012

Faith, hope and love - these three remain

From today's reading:  Since we belong to the day, let us be sober, and put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation.  1 Thessalonians 5:8

Paul is encouraging the Thessalonians to remain faithful in their life in Christ.  Too often the human response to the trials of this life is to run away and hide under a rock.  Here Paul gives us images that can help us to stand firm and upright.  Not unlike his letter to the Ephesians, we hear these images of armor - the breastplate that protects the Roman soldier in battle and his helmet.  Here Paul suggests a breastplate of faith and love, to remind us of Christ and protect us from the spiritual anarchy that often swirls around us.   And he suggests a helmet consisting of the hope of salvation that will keep us ever positive in the face of adversity.  Paul cares forthose he ministers to and always tries to give them tools to cope with their situations.  We can use those same tools in our own lives.

Lord, keep us ever mindful that your love surrounds us and protects us like a breastplate so that our faith in you can remain firm and undaunted.  Help us to always keep the helmet of hope in place so that we know that you are ever with us and protecting us in all the cares of this life.  Thank you, Lord, for your son, Jesus, and for the teaching of your servant, Paul.  May we look to you in all things at all times through the power and leading of your Holy Spirit. Amen

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Psalm 20

From today's reading:  Psalm 20

1 May the LORD answer you in the day of trouble,*
the Name of the God of Jacob defend you;
2 Send you help from his holy place *
and strengthen you out of Zion;
3 Remember all your offerings *
and accept your burnt sacrifice;
4 Grant you your heart's desire *
and prosper all your plans.

May your day be blessed and full of joy.  Amen.

Friday, December 7, 2012

For love of God and neighbor

From today's reading:  You will show me the path of life; *
in your presence there is fullness of joy, and in your right hand 
are pleasures for evermore.  Psalm 16:11

I had trouble reading the Psalm today - I wanted to sing it.  These are the words for John Foley's song, "For You are my God."  For you are my God, you alone are my joy.  Defend me, O Lord.  As we came out of church one Sunday, a young man asked me, "I thought I heard him say we are to love God first above everything else.  My father always taught me that you should love family above every thing else."  

The young man had heard correctly.  We are to love God above all, because it is in God's perfect love that we learn to love family and others more perfectly.  Without God's perfect love, other love runs the risk of becoming possessive or even obsessive.  Loving God first keeps all else in perspective.

Another verse says, "You give marvelous comrades to me."  God does place wonderful people in our path to accompany us on our journey through life.  These are the ones that we are to love with the love born of God.  And if we allow him to, God will guide us through the maze that we call life.  We don't have to struggle with all the questions that arise, God will be with us and lead us to right decisions and actions.

Loving God, help us to love those around us more perfectly remembering that we are all made in your image.  Open our eyes and ears to following your leading to reach out in love to a broken and hurting world.  Amen.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

St. Nicholas, the giver of gifts

And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, just as we abound in love for you. 1 Thessalonians 3:12

Here we are in Advent and today we celebrate Nicholas, Bishop of Myra in Turkey.  St. Nicholas was a compassionate man who loved God and people.  The story goes: there was a man in town who had three daughters, but lacked suitable dowries for his daughters so that they could not get married.  To save them from a lifetime of prostitution, Nicholas walked by the house on three consecutive nights and threw a bag of money into a window so that the three girls could be married.  Nicholas thereby became the patron saint for anonymous gift giving.

Tomorrow, we are getting together with other members of Sam's high school class for lunch.  We decided that each of us would bring a toy for the Blue Santa gift drive.  This is a prime example of anonymous gift giving.  We trust that needy kids will have a very merry Christmas because of the generosity of others in the spirit of St. Nicholas.

Lord, give us a heart after the heart of Nicholas.  Open our eyes to see where there is need, and open our hearts to reach out as our ability allows to help others in their necessity.  Help us to shine a light into the darkness and give hope to a broken and hurting world.   Amen.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Come, let us go to the house of the Lord

From today's reading:  3 Many peoples shall say, "Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths." For out of Zion shall go forth instruction, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. Isaiah  2:3

I'm not sure when it came about that I was  indeed glad to hear someone say, "Let us to go the house of the Lord."  In the beginning, it was tedious - and then somehow, being in the presence of God became less and less a chore and more and more a time of excitement and expectation.

I know that we are always in the presence of the living God - but being intentional about coming together to worship Him has a joy of its own.  There is a fulfillment that takes place in the heart that is very hard to explain to someone who has not or does not feel it.

One of the phrases you hear over and over in the gospels is "Come and see..."  When faced with those who do not know the Lord, all we can do is say, "I've found something that fills me and brings peace and hope to my life.  Come and see for yourself."

Lord, open my ears to hear your word that I might always rejoice to hear your voice.  And open my heart to reach out to those you have placed in my path.  Let me be a beacon, not a wall, to those who do not know you, so that I might lead them to your holy hill.  Amen.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Sharing the Gospel & ourselves

From today's reading:  So deeply do we care for you that we are determined to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you have become very dear to us.  1 Thessalonians 2:8

What really strikes me about this is that Paul cares so deeply for the Thessalonians.  When we care for others, we want them to experience what we have and what we know and what we love, but most of all we want to share ourselves with them.  God uses us no matter who we are or where we are - but he uses us best when we have love for those around us - for those to whom we minister.

For those of us we serve on Cursillo or Emmaus and Kairos teams, team formation is very important.  It is in getting to know those we serve with that we grow to care deeply.  And it is in praying for those who will attend that we grow to care for them even before we meet them.

When in our daily life, we run across people who irritate us or seem to be at odds with us, try praying for them.  Honest prayer has a way of changing attitudes and situations and relationship.  

Dear Lord Jesus. help me to learn to pray honestly for those around me, that I may grow to care deeply for them.  Help me to become a beacon of your light and love to this broken and hurting world.  Amen. 

Monday, December 3, 2012

By whose authority?

From today's reading:  Jesus answered them, 'I will also ask you a question. . . Did the baptism of John come from heaven, or was it of human origin?  Luke 20:3-4

All of the officials who came to Jesus asking about his authority to be teaching in the temple may have been asking about temporal authority, but Jesus takes it to the next level.  Is the authority from men or from God?    In our day and age, in the Episcopal Church, the answer is both: God anoints (appoints) and the church affirms.

The officials considered the two choices given by Jesus.  They did not want to believe that John's authority had come from heaven; that would mean that there was a problem with their own authority.  So they took the safe way - "we don't know."  And the truth was, they really didn't know."  I've also found out that it's okay not to be sure about some things and it's okay to change your mind when you have new data to consider.  

Authority from God can only be sensed at a spiritual level.  Often doors open when you are following the path God has chosen, but they tend to slam shut when you are walking outside his will.  I remember a young man with a dream, but every time he got the pre-requisites for the program he wanted, they would change the qualifications.  When he finally changed degree programs, he had no trouble getting through it and advancing to his masters degree.  Was John's authority from heaven?  Consider the lives that were changed and the hope that was given in the midst of his ministry.

Lord, open our eyes to see your hand at work, and give us grace to follow the path you have set before us that we may bring hope and clarity to a confused and questioning world.  Amen.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Your Redemption is drawing near.

From today's reading:  (When you) see 'the Son of Man coming in a cloud' with power and great glory. . . stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near."  Luke 21:27-28

Being the Rector of Church of the Redeemer for 4 years, I saw this vision every Sunday and preaching under this image was a constant reminder that Christ will come again.  What does it mean as we come to this first Sunday in Advent?  Today is a day of prophecy, of hope and expectation - waiting for the coming of Jesus.  It's not for us to know when He is coming again, but as we await his coming, we are not to sit around idly twiddling our thumbs.  No, we are to be productive while we wait - sharing signs of God's love, of Jesus' presence in our midst.

The problem with this image of Jesus coming in the clouds is that too many people have equated it with judgment.  But Jesus very clearly states here that it is not judgment, but redemption that he brings.  So stand up and raise your heads as you see Jesus coming, for the kingdom of God is indeed drawing near.

Lord, open my eyes to see your hand at work, and give us grace to cast away darkness and put on the armor of light.  Ever remind us that Jesus himself came as a humble child before he was raised in majesty.  Help us to emulate that humility as we proclaim His life and ministry to a broken and hurting world.  Amen.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

When I stumble

From today's reading:  Jesus said to his disciples, 'Occasions for stumbling are bound to come. . .   Luke 17:1  

Occasions for stumbling are found around every corner - some of them we know quite well - those are pretty easy to avoid.  But others are more elusive, they sneak up on us without our even being aware; things like indignation, self-righteousness, pride, attraction, gluttony, temptations of all kinds.  They are most often subtle, attractive, seemingly innocuous.  As a human race, we often make excuses for the questionable behavior.      

Jesus knows that we are not perfect, and his ability to wait for us through our indiscretions is unbounded.  His ability to forgive us for our transgressions is without end.  His willingness to reach down into the dusky places we go and to draw us up again is the example of his great love for us.

Jesus, when temptations are placed in my path, help me to overcome, but on the occasions when I do fall, pick me up, help me to repent, and place me back on the path.  Amen.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Open my eyes, Lord

From today's reading:   The rich man called out, "Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am in agony in these flames."  Luke 16:24

This is from the story of Lazarus and the rich man; you know - that joke that Jesus told that starts, "two men died and went to heaven and Father Abraham met them at the gate..."  Jokes are often used to tell great truths, such as this one.  The point is "the first shall be last and the last shall be first..."  or maybe "we reap what we sow..."  or "be careful how you treat the little guy..."  

In our story today, the rich man (whose name is never mentioned) is still thinking of himself as above Lazarus, wanting Lazarus to serve him.  He wants Lazarus to be merciful to him, even though he was never merciful to Lazarus.  It's all part of what Jesus was talking about when he said, "Do unto others what you would have them do unto you."  We are expected to treat others in the same way that we would want them to treat us if our roles were reversed.   

Too many people in today's world automatically take offense at the slightest provocation, especially when we see ourselves as being above or better than the other.  When dealing with other people, it would serve us well to think: "If our roles were reversed, how would I want to be treated."  That might cut down on a lot of friction we see in today's world.  The next time you feel irritated at someone, before you respond, picture yourself in their place - and act accordingly.

Lord, open my eyes to see the world the way you see it, not through my limited vision, but through your loving and merciful eyes.  Amen.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Mercy Triumphs Over Judgment

From today's reading:  So speak and so act as those who are to be judged by the law of liberty. For judgment will be without mercy to anyone who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment  James  2:12-13

Just a short note today - about the last four words in the verses above:  I think this is something that is preached over and over in the Bible - but it is overlooked by a large number of Christians.  I think the human need to validate ourselves often shows up in our insecurity in our own being..  For some people, it seems to be easier to attack and judge others, to run them down than to find something commendable in ourselves.  And even when we are right, Micah reminds us what the Lord wants of us: "to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God." (6:8) My motto is if I err, I will err on the side of mercy.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Lord, keep me faithful

From today's reading:  He asked them, 'Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way they were worse sinners than all other Galileans? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish as they did.  Luke 13:2-3

When Katrina happened, a young man told me that it was God's just punishment for the wickedness of the people of New Orleans.  A friend tells me that it was the arrogance of the people who defied nature by building below sea level that paid the price.  What Jesus is telling us here is that calamity striking does not indicate disfavor from God.  These things just happen and as it says elsewhere in scripture, both rain and sun fall of the just and the wicked alike.  And I don't even believe that Jesus is saying that the people died unrepentant.  What he is saying is that we can't predict when or where we are going to die and that we should at all times be prepared to meet our Lord.

The Roman Catholic Church advocates weekly confession - anytime you are going to take communion.  Some people believe in doing a nightly examination of conscience - just a quick check on the day.  What have I done that was right - what have I done that was wrong?  How can I improve myself tomorrow?  You don't have to go down some long check list - just a quick personal check in - and a prayer for God to help you do better tomorrow.

Lord, keep me faithful, remind me of those things I need to change, help me let go of those things I cannot change, show me where I can make the difference in someone else's day.  Amen.    

Friday, November 2, 2012

Comfort in the Lord

He will swallow up death for ever.  Then the Lord God will wipe away the tears from all faces.  Isaiah 25:8a

These are comforting words from Isaiah for those who have lost a loved one.  Today is called All Souls Day and is set aside to remember all those who have died.  All those we love but see not more.  We remember them and raise them up to the Lord, asking a blessing on each and every one of them - today and always. God loved us so much that he sent his son Jesus Christ to be our advocate and the sacrifice for all.  Jesus Christ died that all might be saved.  We can take comfort in knowing that God cares for each and every one of us as we are his creation, made in his image.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

For all the Saints, who from their labor rest.

Today's reading from the apocryphal book of 2 Esdras 2:42-47
42 I, Ezra, saw on Mount Zion a great multitude that I could not number, and they all were praising the Lord with songs. 43 In their midst was a young man of great stature, taller than any of the others, and on the head of each of them he placed a crown, . . . 44 Then I asked an angel, ‘Who are these, my lord?’ 45 He answered, ‘These are they who have put off mortal clothing and have put on the immortal, and have confessed the name of God. . . 46 Then I said to the angel, ‘Who is that young man who is placing crowns on them and putting palms in their hands?’ 47 He said to me, ‘He is the Son of God, whom they confessed in the world.’ So I began to praise those who had stood valiantly for the name of the Lord.  

Today is All Saints - a day of remembrance for those who have died. We remember especially those saints that have pointed the way for the church, but we also remember our local saints - our family and friends who have passed on during the year.  As we think about their lives, and about their impact on our lives, the vision of Ezra is a blessing to think that they are honored and we will see them again.  If you are in Alvin this evening, join us for a service of remembrance at Grace Episcopal Church at 7:00 pm.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Your promise gives me life.

From today's reading: Psalm 119: 49-50
49 Remember your word to your servant, because you have given me hope.  50 This is my comfort in my trouble, that your promise gives me life.   

While pondering various worries this morning, I found this to be great comfort and a reminder that, after all, it is all in God's hand.  We think we are handling things well, and then we find ourselves is a bit of intestinal distress and realize that we have just stuffed it down and it is churning up our insides.  Not fun at all.  

When that happens, it is good to remember that it is God who is in control, and when we can't change what is happening, we lift it up in prayer and allow the Lord to be a significant part of the situation and therefore the solution.  For God is our hope, and when we are troubled, he will be our comfort when we remember that he is ultimately in charge of our life. 

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

A few thoughts on gossip

This morning's Old Testament was from the apocryphal book known as Sirach or also as Ecclesiasticus, chapter 19, verses 4-17.  What we find as we read this, are true words of wisdom for today's living.  This lesson encourages us not to gossip - the first part tells us, if you hear something, don't repeat it.  And the second half encourages us, not to jump to conclusions when we hear something bad about someone.   If we hear something bad, about someone, go talk to them.  You might find out what y0u heard was untrue.  Or there may be a very practical explanation for what happened.  

When we make assumptions about other people, especially about their intentions - we always project our own biases into the situation.  It is always more productive to ask questions and give others a chance to explain before we condemn.  We could reduce a lot of our stress, and much of our health challenges by giving people the benefit of a doubt and engaging them in productive conversation rather than sitting back and stewing in our own web of conjecture.

May the Lord grant you a peaceful day void of the conflict that is often produced by gossip.  Amen.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Gifts for the work of ministry

From today's reading:  The gifts he gave were . . . . to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until all of us come to the unity of the faith. . . .  Ephesians 4:11-13

The lessons I used today were from those appointed for the remembrance of St. Simon and St. Jude.  Where the dots are I have left out a list of gifts that I think can probably sidetrack us.  If we get too hung up on the "special gifts," we forget that all gifts are given for ministry - even gifts of cooking and cleaning and serving at table can be gifts for the spread of the faith.  

One of my young friends who came through campus ministry at SHSU came from a family that were mostly C & E'rs - you know, attending only at Christmas and Easter.  But they attended the Episcopal church, so when her dad died during her high school years, she was not grounded in a Christian community.  

What made an impression on her was that someone from the church that she didn't even know, came to her house to help out and cleaned their toilet.  Just think of the gift - to go to a house where someone has died and to clean their toilet - and to make a lasting impression on a 17 year old girl.  That simple act made a difference in the life of that young girl.

What are the gifts that God has given us?  You don't have to be a preacher or teacher or spiritual giant to make a difference in someone's life.  The greatest gift is love.  It is love that allows someone to go into a stranger's home and to perform the simplist of acts that can bring another to faith.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Trusting in the Lord

From today's reading:  1 Do not fret yourself because of evildoers; do not be jealous of those who do wrong.  For they shall soon wither like the grass, and like the green grass fade away.  Put your trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and feed on its riches.   Psalm 37:1-3

That just about sums it up.  -  don't envy those who get ahead by improper means, and put your trust in God.  God will take care of those who do evil and he will take care of his faithful.  We simply have to trust that he will be there and keep us under his watchful eye.

So many people are beginning to show the strain of this years presidential campaign.  I, for one, and tired of the rhetoric.  If the candidates would just tell us what they plan to do or how they plan to handle various situations and quit attacking one another, I might actually want to listen to them.  

I found this gem while reading my lessons this morning and hope maybe it speaks with truth.      "The government of the earth is in the hand of the Lord, and over it he will raise up the right leader for the time."  Maybe we should all pray this one!   Sirach 10:4

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

From the belly of Sheol you heard my cry.

From today's reading:  "I called to the LORD out of my distress, and he answered me; out of the belly of Sheol I cried, and you heard my voice.  Jonah 2:2

This has always been an encouraging verse to me.  Here is Jonah in the belly of the great fish and he knows that this situation is a result of his discision to ignore the Lord and run away.  I don't know of anyone who hasn't made a bad choice on occasion.  Sometimes they are simple little things that don't really make a big difference, but on those occasions when the decision could be life changing, it is so comforting to know that we can call on the Lord and regardless of where we are, He hears our voice.  And He will begin to set in motion those things that will help bring us out of the belly of the fish that has engulfed us.

From Psalm 139:7-8,12a - Where can I go from your spirit?  Where can I flee from your presence?  If I ascend to Heaven, you are there.  If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there. Even the darkness is not dark to you...

It doesn't matter what kind of mess we get ourselves into - our Lord is there to help us find our way back.  Now and always!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Someone touched me

From today's reading: Jesus said, 'Someone touched me; for I noticed that power had gone out from me.'  Luke 8:46

The crowd surrounded Jesus and pressed in from every side, and yet, he knew that someone had touched the hem of his cloak, and not just touched it, but touched it with the faith that it could make her well.  Jesus felt the power go out of him and he knew it wasn't just someone who wanted to be able to say, "I touched Jesus." but someone in great need; someone in desperation.

I think this is so hopeful for all of us.  When we reach out to Jesus in any kind of need, he feels our presence and our need and our faith.  And he in turn reaches out to us and assures us, 'Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace.' (Verse 48)  It's as simple as that.  No great and mights acts - no proclamation from the rooftops.  Just 'go in peace - you have been cleansed.'  It's personal and it's powerful in its simplicity.  Go in peace - the Lord is with you.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Philip the Deacon

From today's reading:  Then an angel of the Lord said to Philip, ‘Get up and go towards the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.’ (This is a wilderness road.) So he got up and went. Now there was an Ethiopian eunuch returning home (from Jerusalem), he was reading the prophet Isaiah. Then the Spirit said to Philip, ‘Go over to this chariot and join it.’ So Philip ran up. . . and he invited Philip to get in and sit beside him.  The eunuch asked Philip, ‘About whom, may I ask you, does the prophet say this, about himself or about someone else?’ Then Philip began to speak.          Acts 8:26-27, 29-30,32,34-35

Philip is one of the seven men selected in Acts to serve the church along with the disciples.  I love this reading - I love what it says.  Philip allowed the Spirit to lead him without question and when he found himself in this place, he first listened before responding.  When he saw this court official in his chariot, and heard him reading from Isaiah, he asked, "Do you understand?"  When invited, he joined the eunuch in the chariot.  But he still listened and did not respond until asked a question.  I think a mistake some Christians make is to assume that someone wants to hear what they have to say, without first listening to their cares and concerns. Philip listens and then waits until the Ethiopian asks him a question.  Then he answers it, openly and honestly.

I've had this kind of thing happen at least twice where I ended up somewhere unusual in a conversation with a stranger, and somewhere in the midst of that conversation realized that it was God appointed.  And the most amazing feeling wells up inside you as you realize that God is using you to make a new difference in someone's life.  Sometimes you only realize it in hindsight, and that's okay.  But the thing that speaks to me most clearly is that evangelism is most effective when the person is in an inquiring and receptive frame of mind.  The Holy Spirit does his work and then brings us in to "seal the deal" - to clarify and affirm what He is already doing - to let the person know that God cares enough to give them help and companions along the way.  Where has the Spirit led you lately? 

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Are you the one?

From today's reading:  John summoned two of his disciples and sent them to the Lord to ask, 'Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?' And [Jesus] answered them, 'Go and tell John what you have seen and heard.  Luke 7:18-19,22 

I think this is still a big question today.  Are you the one, or do we look elsewhere?  In Jesus' day, the Jews were looking specifically for the Messiah - the one promised from God.  In today's world, that's a much broader question.  There are a lot of other 'religions' out there: many that have come down through the ages, but also a lot of newer expressions of spirituality that have been designed by people looking for meaning, but maybe sadly missing the most important ingredient.  

Whether you are looking for forgiveness, enlightenment, salvation, relationship, a feeling of oneness with something larger than yourself, meaning in life - God can speak to all of this. 

You notice that Jesus does not give a direct answer to John's question.  He does not say, "Yes, I am the one."  Instead, he says, "Look around you.  What do you see?  How do you interpret what you see?"  He is encouraging them to critical thinking - can these things happen and be insignificant?  Can these things happen and not affect the world - not come from something larger than our existence?

We are being invited to look at the world around us.  Are those significant things that happen around us just coincidence, or is there a design that comes from something larger than chance.  For Christians the answer is obvious.  Jesus was the one to come.  There is a Godly design to the universe - from the vast expanse of interstellar space to the intimate way that God cares for us as demonstrated in the person of Jesus Christ.  

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Restoring life

From today's reading:   As [Jesus] approached the gate of [Nain], a man who had died was being carried out. He was his mother's only son, and she was a widow; and with her was a large crowd from the town. When the Lord saw her, he had compassion for her and said to her, 'Do not weep.' Then he came forward and touched the bier, and the bearers stood still. And he said, 'Young man, I say to you, rise!' The dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother.  Luke 7:12-15

This is just a little story - only 4 verses long - and often overlooked by casual readers.  But it is an important story in telling us what Jesus is like.  Now I'm sure that during the time Jesus and his disciples traveled around they saw a number of funerals, so why is this the only one mentioned?  The story has more to do with the mother than anything else.  The mother it says is a widow and that this was her only son.  

That information is very important because it tells us that the woman is now without support - no one to take care of her or to provide for her.  She will be left on the street to beg for whatever scraps people might give her.  But it also says that Jesus had compassion for her - Jesus cared that she was left alone.  He cared that her heart and her life were broken by the son's death.  So he restored her life by restoring her son.

This is one of those little stories that is meant to comfort us; to let us know that Jesus cares about those things that have the ability to crush us.  Jesus cares and is willing to step into the gap to take care of us.  Thank you, Lord, that you restore our life when we seem to have lost everything.  Thank you, Jesus, for your loving care that surrounds us and lifts us up when we are down.  Amen.  

Monday, October 8, 2012

Laying a Foundation on the Rock

From today's reading:  I will show you what someone is like who comes to me, hears my words, and acts on them. That one is like a man building a house, who dug deeply and laid the foundation on rock; when a flood arose, the river burst against that house but could not shake it, because it had been well built.  Luke 6:47-48

In this day and age, there are a lot of people who are seeking enlightenment and fulfillment in any number of ways: those people who say they are spiritual but not religious, those who do not acknowledge any authority over them, those who think that Christianity has no relevance in today's world.  But the truth is that it does have relevance and that it can be the foundation for what we are seeking.  

God can reach out to people in any number of ways.  He will search your heart and find what it is that moves you and give you an opportunity to see him in that.  If it is love that you want or knowledge, truth, wisdom, justice, beauty, righteousness, symmetry, grace or mercy - whatever it is - God will address it and show you his presence in it if you only open your eyes to see and acknowledge Him. 

The truth is that our world can be messy.  We often stumble around seeking and making mistakes.  But the joy is that God's love for his creation is so great, that when we study his desire for us and for the world, we find perfection in his plan.  When we lay our foundation on Him, the imperfection that rises from humanity in this world cannot topple or destroy what God has built. 

When you look at God's ability to be in the midst of our concerns, and you look at God's desire to fill us and keep us in his presence, it can be a little overwhelming to understand that the Creator of the world, the Lord of Life itself, is there for us when we need him and reach out to him.  Amen.  

Thursday, October 4, 2012

St. Francis of Assisi

From today's reading:  One sabbath while Jesus was going through the grainfields, his disciples plucked some heads of grain, rubbed them in their hands, and ate them. But some of the Pharisees said, 'Why are you doing what is not lawful on the sabbath?'  Luke 6:1-2

Jesus was always under scrutiny by the Pharisees.  He was accused of being a drunkard, a glutton, and frowned on for associating with sinners and tax collectors.  Here his disciples were belittled for plucking and eating the heads of grain as they walked through a field.  These were not rich men.  They followed Jesus because they believed in him.  They lived mostly off the land and the kindness of others.  

Today is the day set aside to honor St. Francis of Assisi.  The way most churches celebrate his day is to have a blessing of the animals.  As a young man, Francis renounced his father's wealth and embraced 'Lady Poverty.' Sure that he had heard the voice of God, Francis began rebuilding a local church that was falling down.  Later as others joined him, he began an order of "friars"who accepted a rule of poverty and wandered what is now Europe preaching the gospel to anyone who would listen.  Francis epitomized the saying, "Preach the gospel.  If necessary, use words."  He led by example (not unlike Christ) in tryng to bring the peace of God into the world.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me.

From today's reading:  [Jesus] unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor.  He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor."  Luke 4:17-19

Jesus has returned from his time in the wilderness and as he has traveled around the region, he has begun to make a name for himself.  This is his first public statement concerning his identity and it is made in his hometown.  

The quote is from the prophetic literature of Isaiah.  It is a quote that says, God cares.  He cares for the poor, the captives, the blind and oppressed.  He cares that we are hurting, physically or emotionally or spiritually.  God not only cares, but he has provided an answer; one that assures us that we are loved and that he will not abandon us.  

Two sentences later, Jesus claims, "This has been fulfilled in your hearing."  What he is saying to the people is, I am the one who is sent to do these things - to bring good news, proclaim release, give sight to the blind, and set free those who are oppressed.  Jesus is the one.  He is the one we call on when we are troubled.  He is the one who offers us hope in the hopeless situation.  

Jesus is the one who can speak peace to our spirit, who speaks hope to our minds, who speaks strength to our heart.  Jesus is the one who reaches out to us when we are afraid, and lifts us up when we have fallen.  Jesus is the spirit that fills us and lifts us to God's presence - now and always.  Amen.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Port cities for spreading the gospel

From today's reading:   When Paul had laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied.  Acts 19:6

I've been at the seminary for the Blandy Lectures.  It's been a great time.  The focus is reaching out to today's generation and the use of social media to increase your influence.  One of the comments - a "loose quote" from a book called, "Linked" - said that Paul was successful because he went primarily to port towns and towns that were crossroads for trade routes.  He would preach in those towns and then the gospel would go out on ships or with caravans to other places.  The book posited that some websites, blogs, and hubs are today's port cities - a place from which ideas and messages can be spread.  

The spread of the gospel, or even a simple blessing of someone in need, can happen when we are in the right place at the right time, regardless of whether it is in the "real world" or in our virtual communities.  

Friday, September 21, 2012

Call on the name of the Lord.

From today's reading:  For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all and is generous to all who call on him. For, ‘Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’  
Romans 10:12-13

I think this is so important to remember - "everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved."  It doesn't matter who you are, what your background is, how you differ from me; if you sincerely call on the name of the Lord Jesus, you will be saved.  

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

A Rosary Prayer for today

CROSS  -  In the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

INVIT  -  O God, may your Holy Spirit direct us in all things and rule in our hearts forever.  Amen

CRUCI  -  A great crowd took branches of palm trees and went out to meet Jesus, shouting, 'Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord - the King of Israel!'  (John 12:12-13)

WEEKS  -  For God alone my soul in silence waits;  truly, my hope is in him.  (Psalm 62:6)

INVIT  -  The Lord's Prayer

CROSS  -  Glory to God whose power, working in us, can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine: Glory to him from generation to generation in the Church, and in Christ Jesus for ever and ever.  Amen.

Friday, September 14, 2012

By His holy cross we shall be saved

From today's reading:  So Moses made a serpent of bronze, and put it upon a pole; and whenever a serpent bit someone, that person would look at the serpent of bronze and live.  Numbers 21:9

This is an interesting little story from the Old Testament operating somewhat on the idea of cause and effect.  The people sinned so snakes appeared in their midst and bit them and they died.  But then Moses made a serpent of bronze and put it on a pole in the middle of the camp so that all could see it and those who looked at the serpent would be healed.  

There is a difference between the people of the Old Testament and the people of today.  In the time of Moses, our God, Yahweh, was the god of the Isarelites.  Other people had other gods and often multiple gods.  When people found themselves in any kind of trouble, they asked themselves, what have I done to anger God (or the gods?)  They took responsibility for their culpablilty and looked for ways to repair the damage, whether it was by offering sacrifice or cleaning up their act.  Many of today's generation, when in an unpleasant situation, instead of taking responsibility for their own actions, look around for someone to blame - often to sue - because they don't want to admit that they may have done something wrong or foolish, or that situations might just be without cause and effect.  

So in our gospel reading for today, Jesus says, "Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life." (John 3:15)  So just as the people in the desert looked up at the serpent and lived even though they had sinned, so we who look up at the cross of Jesus will also live regardless of our sin.  That is the gift that God has given us, that inspite of our sin, God has given a sign by which we may all be saved, if we only look up. 

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Patience to wait on the Lord

From today's reading:  After having heard that Lazarus was ill, [Jesus] stayed two days longer in the place where he was. Then after this he said to the disciples, 'Let us go to Judea again.' The disciples said to him, 'Rabbi, the Jews were just now trying to stone you, and are you going there again?'  John 11:6-8

I think the disciples didn't always understand what Jesus was doing.  They didn't understand when he didn't go to Lazarus immediately upon hearing that he was ill.  Lazarus was his friend.  Jesus cared deeply for him, but Jesus didn't feel compelled to immediately go to him.  And now Jesus is talking about going back to Judea even when those in authority were trying to find a reason to kill him.  So I know that the disciples are wondering, "why now?"  

Jesus always had a reason to do the things he did.  He always knew what God was doing in the world and through him.  He didn't have the human questions like, "what if I'm wrong..."  I pray for that kind of assurance that Jesus had.  The sure knowledge that I am doing God's will in everything that I do.  I pray for the patience to listen for God's whisper in the night or during the day.  And I pray for the patience to wait on the Lord's timing in the things that He calls me to do.  

Sunday, September 2, 2012

First Fruits of Creation

From today's reading:  Every generous act of giving, with every perfect gift, is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. In fulfillment of his own purpose he gave us birth by the word of truth, so that we would become a kind of first fruits of his creatures.  James 1:17-18

Our lesson from James was the inspiration for one of the songs we sang in campus ministry in Huntsville  – “Father of Lights – you delight in your children.”  It goes on to say, “Every good and perfect gift comes from you…”  The lesson says that God’s purpose was to give us birth so that we might become the first fruits of his creation.  Now you realize that in most of scripture, we are enjoined to offer back to God the first fruits of our labor and here is this scripture that tells us that WE ourselves are the first fruits of God’s creation.  

That is absolutely amazing – we are the first fruits of God’s creation.  We are the best – the first and foremost.  Have you ever stood on the top of a mountain?  And looked out at what God has created?  Have you ever sat by a bubbling brook in a forest and watched the water splashing and tripping over the stones as it rushes down to the sea?  Have you ever looked out at the sunset – or sunrise and seen the glory of God written across the sky in an ever changing way that can only be created by God?   Or how about watching a rose unfold, or felt the delicate petals of an orchid, and wondered that God counts us above all that – as worthy above all that?   

Come to Grace Episcopal Church in Alvin for the rest of today's sermon..... 

Friday, August 31, 2012

Gift of the Spirit given even to the Gentiles

From today's reading:  The [Jews] who had come with Peter were astounded that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles, for they heard them speaking in tongues and extolling God.  Acts 10:45-46

In today's lesson, the Jews were "astounded" that God would bless the Gentiles with such obvious evidence of his presence.  They weren't sure what to do about it, but Peter knew they had to offer the water of baptism.  I was very blessed when Bishop Andy Doyle was at St. John's, La Porte in May.  After baptizing our adult candidate, he offered the ministry of baptism to anyone there who felt called to come forward.  Acceptance for anyone and everyone who desired to come - regardless of race, class, age or political or sexual persuasion.

Why is it, that as a human people, we have trouble believing that someone who is not 'just like us' cannot receive the Spirit of God?  And why is it that we seem to think that if a person truly does believe, they will come around to our way of thinking?  I know (and love) a number of people who are all God-fearing Christians, but some are "flaming liberals," while others are "bullheaded conservatives."  Yet they all know and love Jesus Christ and they follow him as their Lord and Savior.    

I don't think we're ever going to see eye to eye on many of the externals, but Jesus' commission to love our neighbor and to spread the news that He is risen from the dead lives on as the guiding principle for our life.  We just need to remember that "Christian" means that we are followers of  Jesus Christ, and we come in all shapes and sizes and political persuasions.  

(Personally, this year as a good "Via Media" Anglican, I'm looking for a third viable candidate for president.  Hmm, Jesus Christ himself might be nice...)

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The wonder of God's law

From today's reading:  Psalm 119:17-18

17 Deal bountifully with your servant, * that I may live and keep your word.
18 Open my eyes, that I may see *
the wonders of your law.    

I read that and I really wish that it said, "that I may see the wonders of your creation" rather than "of your law."  Creation I can deal with much more favorably - laws are a little harder.  I don't necessarily want to think about laws that have to be obeyed.  I'd much rather think about the delights of creation rather than obedience, because I can do guilt trips really well.  I can easily obsess over things that I have not handled well, or sometimes not at all.  

And I can sometimes beat myself up over not helping someone in a particular situation.  But the truth is I do help in some situations and not in others.  Sometimes I feel called to reach out and sometimes I don't.  In those times, when I don't reach out, I have to remind myself that I can't do everything - and I'm not even called to do everything.  In some situations, someone else is called and I have to honor that person's service.

I also have to remember that from a human perspective, God's laws make sense.  At the time they were written, there were real health concerns that were addressed as law.  They included listing some foods as "unclean" that we now know in some circumstances can cause illnesses. They included washing hands and washing eating and cooking utensils.  Many of them were very practical laws meant to keep people healthy.

But God's laws also address human relationship.  They say something important about how we deal with each other.  The vast majority of God's laws are intended for the benefit of human kind - emotionally, spiritually and physically.  It is a wonder to see and understand that God's law indeed makes sense in the world even today.